This was another occasion where I live tweeted the proceedings through @PYBRMIT, so I only have a few extra things to say.
It was extremely unfortunate that this had to take place the morning after CommBall2012, as I feel this greatly impacted the turnout. However, as the 'Events' seminar they were probably best suited to deal with this.
The poster design for this week was incredibly engaging (I heard quite a few people from outside MI talking about it) and I was really interested in what they would have to say, as I never really thought about events as an option. I found it rather an odd perspective at first, considering that it would traditionally be more suited to a PR or events management stream. However, through the course of the seminar I realised that many of the roles the guests were discussing were similar to the roles Producers take on when working on a film. When you're dealing with strategies, safety reports, preparation and Murphy's law, putting on an event really doesn't seem all that different to producing a film, as the core skills are essentially the same.
I feel that by third year, most people have more-or-less worked out what field they'd like to get into, so for most of us the seminars simply supplemented that. This was the only seminar that really opened my eyes to a whole new career path, and that's an exceptional feat.
Points also goes to them for offering a prize (a bottle of wine) to a random person sitting in the first two seats, as it was a great way to encourage people to sit in the front and not have the place look so empty. Kudos.
(Since I feel that the approaches we had to take in regards to producing and then distributing our audio files online were quite different processes, I have split them and will discuss each separately.)
Having the use of online collaboration was pretty much essential in all of the group work completed last semester (and over the break), both in our documentary groups and in Room With A View. For starters, most of our discussion and planning took place online in Facebook groups, where we could easily and frequently contact each other and share information - links, articles, ideas.
As I had never met anyone in both my Room With A View group or my tutorial group, as I was yet to share classes with any of them, having electronic communication as a tool was invaluable as we could easily discuss not only our ideas, but also meeting times and locations to further our discussion. Although this information could have been communicated through group emails, or text messages, there is arguably nothing these days that is as ‘instant’ and powerful in small group communication as the creation of a Facebook group and messaging therein, providing each member actually has a Facebook account. Facebook’s usefulness also came into play when one of the other RWAV groups was left with only two group members, everyone else being overseas. Through Facebook (and one of the member’s cry for help on the RMIT Media page) I was able to ‘raise my hand’ and volunteer to help them out, and was also ‘introduced’ to everyone else without having to meet them. I also had easy access to all their preproduction and was also able to cover a pre-recorded interview when one of the group members met with an accident. It is safe to say that without this kind of instantaneous electronic connection, the show would never have run as smoothly as it did.
Another great arena used for communication in these projects was that of Google Docs. For the uninitiated, Google Docs are simply variations of documents that can be created using Microsoft Office or Open Office – the word document, the spreadsheet, the slideshow, etc – that is stored online and can be edited by multiple users simultaneously. As a producer in my Room With A View group, I decided to create runsheets using Google Docs for these reasons:
- Everyone in the group had access to the most current edition (so there was no confusion between files sent out);
- People in my group were easily able to update any information that was either incorrect or not yet provided;
- We had a link that we could easily share with Elizabeth for her approval; and
- The information still stayed relatively private as only group members had access.
In the formation of the documentary, Google Docs played a much less important role, but still enabled us to share information about the type of ‘structure’ we were looking for and also possible questions to ask.
In terms of the actual sharing of draft work/pre-recorded segments, there were two websites (or programs) that we used to accomplish this. The first was RMIT’s ROAR - an excellent place for us to be able to share any work that we’d done in the lead up to the final project. For example, in the Documentary group, having each person post their individual interview on ROAR was fantastic as the permission settings allowed us all to stream and even download the work of our group members, giving us all time to think about how we wanted to put things together in the final piece, as well as any criticisms we had or things that we wanted to fix. The links and information posted by each individual on ROAR were also invaluable when it came to the collation of sources needed for the final documentary, as they were all therefore easy to access and we could make sure not to leave anything out.
In terms of Room With A View, ROAR also allowed us to listen to sections of group members’ documentaries that we could use on the show, but it served a much higher purpose than just that. The Media Annotation Tool (MAT) allowed us to not only listen back to our ‘demo’ versions of RWAV (recorded in the 3RRR studio) but also to critically analyse them, pinpointing things we did well and also sections where we went wrong. This was a crucial practice for us because our first demo was quite horrendous, and we received a fail for it. However, through this (through listening back, working out where we went wrong, communicating together and putting all our effort into it) we ended up with quite a strong show that we all could be proud of.
The other website/application that was used was Dropbox, which was great for sending music files (so that everyone could hear what was going to be played on the show beforehand, and form their commentary accordingly) and also pre-records without compressing them. One of the downfalls of ROAR was that the recordings needed to be an MP3, and therefore could not have the highest possible bit rate. Passing files through Dropbox was an easy way to ensure the content we played would be of the highest quality we could manage, while still giving everyone access to it.
At first, being a third-year Media student in a course that is comprised predominately of second-year Media and third-year Professional Communication students felt a little bit strange. However, as time progressed in the course I realised that some of the other subjects I had studied gave me a different perspective on some of the assignments of our course. Some of these things were minor (such as the fact that my Broadcast Media documentary was now two years old and no longer suitable for airing on RWAV). The area where I felt the most different in perspective was that of multi-platform production and distribution, and I will now reflect on some of the reasons why.
Having already completed Integrated Media 1&2, I had learnt lots about the importance of social media integration and connecting with fans and the community online. My interest in radio led me to working on a research project last semester, entitled Radio In The Digital Age, where we looked at the importance of digital technology (and online content in particular) in establishing a connection with current and future listeners of radio shows or stations. By talking to many different people, as well as being part of the SYN Online Team, I learnt that there were certain integral elements to a radio show's online presence. Although different people will probably have different ideas about these, I feel that the main elements are:
- Offical website page (as an offshoot of the Station's website)
- Social media presence through different channels
- Accessible podcasts that are correctly tagged.
- Easy-to-find playlists
Room With A View, as a 3RRR show, already had a wonderful website on the RRR page in which playlists could be easily updated (and videos/band bios automatically added). In addition to this, Radio On Demand (which allows website visitors to listen to past shows in their entirety) is completely wonderful – not many radio stations (if any) are lucky enough to have this facility. However, something Room With A View didn’t have were easily downloadable bite-sized podcasts or a strong social media presence. The first problem could easily be fixed by uploading individual parts of the show onto ROAR, and making them accessible to the public. When it came to social media, however, I felt that someone had to be the one to begin something, and so I made an official Twitter account for Room With A View, taking my cue from the Breakfasters account, whom I follow. So far, I feel that Twitter has been a phenomenal success. People are able to live-tweet their shows and even directly mention the bands whom they are playing. They can do the same with interviews and even (theoretically) source questions from the public, as 3RRR does not have a text or message line in the same way that SYN (for example) does. This not only makes our content more accessible to our listeners but also allows them to participate in our show in new and exciting ways, giving them an extra level of engagement. It also means that 3RRR’s official twitter can retweet any of our relevant tweets to their much larger follower base, meaning that more people could possibly tune in if they are enticed by our content.
It also means that people we interviewed can link to us, as Clare Bowditch did, sharing the Radio On Demand link for a RWAV show that played a documentary she was involved in. This kind of exposure only means good things for the show, and should be used not as a distraction, but as an extra incentive to create incredible content.
All in all, I have discovered that the time we live in is an incredible one, as we can easily share ideas, content and information from our own computers, and collaborate easily without physically being in the same space. Although live meet-ups are still incredibly important to radio (with presenters not being able to build up a pleasant conversational groove without it!) I feel that multi-platform production and distribution really increases accessibility, both for content producers and for listeners, and therefore opens up the potential for new and wonderful things to occur.
I'm clearly not that great at blogging anymore, unless it's about things I'm passionate about. That's one of the tricky things about a media degree - in my perspective, anyway. I spend so much time being able to talk and create and do that words don't have the same hold over me that audio and images (especially those movin' images!) do. I need to get back into the game though, because sometimes writing is exactly what's required. To crudely paraphrase the great Godard, it's important to have the ability to express your ideas no matter what the medium, moving fluently from film, to television, to pen and paper - probably even to yelling on street corners if all matters of inscription were to disappear completely.
Anyway, on to what this post is really meant to be about: a reflection (and an assessed reflection, at that!) which I am going to conduct as if I was having an interview with myself, in order for all of us to get through this. (In case you're reading this and horribly worried, Rachel, don't be - I promise I will write very formally and professionally when it comes to our actual project.)
Q: So, Cassie - what's this all about?
For this Media Industries Research Project I have been working in a group with Jae and Verity. Our project is focused on the idea of "Youth Oriented Radio in the Digital Age", and how youth-oriented radio stations are adapting in order to deal with these technological changes.
Q: Wow. That sounds interesting. What role are you taking in all of this? What's your particular research job?
One of the best things about this project is that we picked it because of our interests, and also our strengths. I'm one of three brand-spanking-new Online Editors at SYN Media, as part of the new Online Team put together for 2012 in order to improve SYN's online services, resources, material and culture. (In case you were wondering, SYN stands for Student Youth Network, which is an Victorian organisation run by 12-25 year olds creating radio, television and online media, broadcasting 24/7 on 90.7 FM, digitally and streaming online at http://syn.org.au.) I'm also currently preparing for the show Room With A View on Triple R as another uni subject, so I've been immersing myself a fair bit in the world of Community Radio.
This is all backstory for the role I've taken in the group - looking at issues and transitions from a broadcaster's perspective. Although I do have experience only in the community sector (I also volunteered for Vision Australia Radio for a while) the experience I have had has been extraordinarily youth focused, and I also have been privy to internal discussions and meetings that an 'ordinary' listener may not have had the chance to experience. At the same time, when it comes to other stations such as Triple J I am purely a consumer (well, a listener of the radio station, download-ee of the iPhone app, subscriber of the email newsletter and podcast, liker of the Facebook page, follower of the Twitter and occasional purchaser of the magazine. Phew! - Oh, and entrant of the competitions!) My job, therefore, is to look at the measures these stations are taking with their online and mobile content and assess what is working well and what could be improved.
Q: What have you done so far? What strategies have you used?
Well, so far I've been primarily engaging in primary research (see what I did there?) by immersing myself all the goodies these stations have to offer - in terms of Nova, Triple J & RRR, my engagement has been as mentioned above (such as getting my grubby little paws on anything I can get my hands on, as well as making analysis of their sites, apps, competitions and following some of their well known personalities on Twitter such as @DHughesy, @MacleanBrendan & @triplejmornings, to name a few.
When it comes to SYN, my involvement has been in quite a different manner, as I am drawing on my past and current experiences in different ways. In the past, as a presenter, I have been acutely aware of the 'basic minimum' expected of me in terms of online content, having sometimes ignored this without retribution (although it pains me to admit it!). Nowadays, as part of the Online Team and also as an involved SYN member, I have stayed ever vigilant in the closed SYN facebook group (only current mediamakers can join) to gauge concerns of those broadcasting at SYN, as well as attended meetings such as the 'Online Futures' vision meeting, held in March, where members discussed their discontent with the current online process and talked about their aspirations and hopes for the future online direction of SYN. Something that came up a lot was a wish to 'revamp' the 'outdated' website, have better Twitter integration and to make uploading files easier and more reliable, while on the management's side there was a desire to streamline the process and have more shows upload podcasts and online content to the SYN website itself, rather than to other channels such as Facebook and Tumblr, or external private websites. From this meeting there came a set of Social Media Guidelines which is currently being implemented across the various shows, with a little push and pull!
As an individual, I have also met up with one of the Executive Producers of the Naughty Rude Show on SYN to discuss why they were not podcasting this year, or uploading any online content at all. Due to my interference, I learnt that they actually were really interested in branching out online, but just didn't have the know-how to do so (or the proper login details!). Learning that this was just a communication breakdown was a good start for all of us, as they are not only excitedly posting up new content (such as this video on the correct way to put on a condom ) but I was able to speak to the rest of the Online Team about this communication breakdown, notifying them of the way the show had managed to 'slip through the cracks' so such an event would not be repeated.
Q: What problems have you encountered? How have you solved them?
To be honest, one of the problems I have encountered has been my cavalier attitude. I felt perhaps that because I had been so involved in these sort of interest areas that I perhaps I wasn't taking this research seriously enough - until I realised that primary research was in fact a big component of our project, and all I needed to do was channel these experiences into written words.
Another problem I had was an ethical one, involving the protection of people's privacy and thoughts. Is it ethical for me to report back on SYN meetings, or private Online Team meetings, and then use this for research? To be honest, this report would have been a lot more interesting had I been able to upload pictures of actual Facebook conversations that had occurred - but I realised that groups on Facebook are private for a reason, and reposting such information here would be a betrayal of that privacy, without consent. I am resolving this issue by informing anyone whose opinions and experiences may assist me on this journey that I am also doing this project, to check whether or not they would mind being featured as a part of it.
Q: Finally - is this any use? Does it fit in with anyone else's work?
I think by the Naughty Rude show example I mentioned earlier, we can see that knowledge is power - especially when it comes to online know-how. If there were people our age (who had done Communication degrees at RMIT, may I add...) who managed to 'slip through the cracks', then information we produce will definitely be useful and in demand. The SYN Vision Meeting shows that these issues are important to broadcasters in the here and now, and that many people are still looking for information. At this point in time, there is no clear 'right' way to do things, but people are certainly developing their own styles, such as with the Social Media Guidelines. Furthermore, I do think this project ties in with other groups in our class, such as Branded Entertainment and Online Journalism, because we're talking about a 'brand' that each station wants to promote and maintain, and also trying to upload content that distinguishes itself from anonymous 'amateur' unregulated media.
So, leaving you with that thought, I am signing off. To be honest, blogging hasn't been all that bad. I should do it more often, no?